The Final 100 Days: German Tanks at Iwuy - October 11, 1918

Northern-bound, and with their eyes on Valenciennes, Canadian forces continued to slog through German resistance on their path to end the First World War.

Two clear objectives existed for the 2nd Division. Firstly, they continued to clear and capture the systems of moats and canals running over the Canal de L’Escaut. The 4th and 5th Brigades ran astride the eastern side of the Canal, advancing on Iwuy, while the 6th operated on the western side. 

The 20th and 21st Canadian Battalions would attack at 9:00 am, sustaining heavy casualties from machine-gun fire. As they fell back to regroup, a surprising German counterattack fell upon their lines. Even more surprising were the 3 German tanks leading the way.

The German A7V tanks operated as a double edged sword. 11 feet high and weighing 33 tons, each tank carried a crew of 18. They manned 6 machine guns, arranged in a circular fashion for a full field of fire, and one 5.7 cm cannon. Despite their size and heavy weaponry, they totally lacked heavy plating, maneuverability, and stifled the men operating inside. Their combat effectiveness was negligible, though they did inspire fear in opposing troops. The battle at Iwuy would be the last use of German tanks in the First World War.

The 18th, 20th and 21st Battalions stood fast. Stiff small arms, machine gun and Lewis gun fire repulsed the attack and disabled the tanks. Though they did not capture the town itself, the combined forces of the 2nd Division captured 3 kilometres of ground, and established a strong position on the Iwuy slope. 

In the face of machine gun fire in his sector, Lieutenant Wallace Lloyd Algie rushed forward, capturing a machine gun and turning it on the enemy. A second rush resulted in the capture of a second machine gun, a German officer, and 10 German prisoners. After returning his prisoners to the 20th Battalion’s line, Lt. Algie was killed in action while returning to the front. For his actions, he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

As No Stone Left Alone continues to reflect on Canada’s Hundred Days, we remember those men who sacrificed their lives during them.